Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and ARC International issued a press release today exprssing deep disappointment with yesterday’s vote in the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly to remove a reference to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The resolution urges States to protect the right to life of all people, including by calling on states to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. For the past 10 years, the resolution has included sexual orientation in the list of discriminatory grounds on which killings are often based.
The removed reference was originally contained in a non-exhaustive list in the resolution highlighting the many groups of people that are particularly targeted by killings - including persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, persons acting as human rights defenders (such as lawyers, journalists or demonstrators) as well as street children and members of indigenous communities. Mentioning sexual orientation as a basis on which people are targeted for killing highlights a situation in which particular vigilance is required in order for all people to be afforded equal protection.
The amendment removing the reference to sexual orientation was sponsored by Benin on behalf of the African Group in the UN General Assembly and was adopted with 79 votes in favor, 70 against, 17 abstentions and 26 absent.
"This vote is a dangerous and disturbing development,” said Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of IGLHRC. “It essentially removes the important recognition of the particular vulnerability faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people - a recognition that is crucial at a time when 76 countries around the world criminalize homosexuality, five consider it a capital crime, and countries like Uganda are considering adding the death penalty to their laws criminalizing homosexuality."
The press release notes that the decision in the General Assembly flies in the face of the overwhelming evidence that people are routinely killed around the world because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and renders these killings invisible or unimportant. The Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions has highlighted documented cases of extrajudicial killings on the grounds of sexual orientation including individuals facing the death penalty for consensual same-sex conduct; individuals tortured to death by State actors because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation; paramilitary groups killing individuals because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation as part of “social cleansing” campaigns; individuals murdered by police officers with impunity because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation; and States failing to investigate hate crimes and killings of persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
"It is a matter of great shame that the responsible Committee of the United Nations General Assembly failed in its responsibility to explicitly condemn well-documented killings based on sexual orientation," said John Fisher, Co-Director of ARC international. "The credibility of the United Nations requires protection of all persons from violations of their fundamental human rights, including on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. We thank those States which supported the inclusion of sexual orientation in the text, and will redouble our collective efforts to ensure that Member States of the United Nations maintain the standards they have sworn to uphold."
The amendment runs counter to other positive developments in UN and regional human rights systems where there is increased recognition of the need for protection from discrimination regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. At a September 2010 panel held in conjunction with a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon unequivocally recognized "the particular vulnerability of individuals who face criminal sanctions, including imprisonment and in some cases the death penalty, on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
Sixty-eight countries have also signed a joint statement in the UN General Assembly on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity which calls for an end to "human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity … in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground [and] extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions."
IGLHRC and ARC International urge all States, regardless of their vote on this amendment, to sign the UNGA joint statement affirming support of the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity and to continue in efforts to decriminalize same-sex conduct and to end other discrimination, including violence, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The votes to amend the resolution were as follows:
In favor of the amendment to remove sexual orientation from the resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (79):
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Opposed to the amendment to remove sexual orientation from the resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (70):
Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Micronesia (FS), Monaco, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela
Antigua-Barbuda, Barbados, Belarus, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Fiji, Mauritius, Mongolia, Papau New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Vanuatu
Albania, Bolivia, Central African Republic, Chad, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Marshall Island, Mauritania, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Sao Tome Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Togo, Tonga, Turkey, Turkmenistan
On November 30, the International Bar Association (IBA) will host an Experts Roundtable Discussion entitled, "Great Expectations: exploring individual and mutual responsibilities of states and the International Criminal Court (ICC)," from 15:30 - 18:30, at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The discussion will examine the relationship between States and the ICC, and what each expects of the other to achieve an efficient and effective Court.
The event will be moderated by James Goldston, Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. The President of the ICC, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, will deliver opening remarks. The panelists include the Assembly of States Parties Facilitator on Cooperation and Ambassador of Ireland, H.E. Mary Whelan; Second Vice-President of the International Criminal Court, Judge Hans-Peter Kaul; Head of the Legal Advisory Section at the ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Ms Shamila Batohi; and Professor Göran Sluiter of the University of Amsterdam.
Attendance is free of charge but registration prior to the event is required. RSVPs are due by Friday, November 26. For more information or to register, go here.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Several international criminal tribunals provide victims with the right to participate directly in a proceeding. Victims are not just witnesses or observers but participate in their own right as "civil parties." Courts allowing victims to appear as civil parties include the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Extraordinary Chambers for the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
I an article I wrote for L'Observateur des Nations Unies, I discuss the treatment of civil parties generally and in the specific context of the first judgment issued by the Extraordinary Chambers for the Courts of Cambodia. Click here to download the article.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The Law Research Institute of the Athens Institute for Education and Research (AT.IN.E.R.) will hold its 8th Annual International Conference on Law on 18-21 July 2011. Submissions from all legal disciplines are welcome. The deadline to submit abstracts is December 27, 2011. For more information, visit the conference website.
The University of PIttsburgh will hold an interdisciplinary conference on "The Idea of France" from November 10-12, 2011. Papers are welcome in a number of fields, including history, political science, law, and cultural studies. Papers may be delivered in English or French. Abstracts of 150-250 words are requested by January 10, 2011. Click here for a one-page flier with more information on the conference, keynote speakers, and where to send your abstract. Download Idea of France
Hat tip (or should that be a tip of the beret?) to Amalia Kessler (Stanford)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Authorities in Myanmar (Burma) have released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She had been under house arrest for much of the past two decades. Her release comes one week after the South-east Asian nation held its first elections in 20 years.
"Her dignity and courage in the face of injustice have been an inspiration to many people around the world, including the Secretary-General, who has long advocated her freedom," said a spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. "The Secretary-General expects that no further restrictions will be placed on her, and he urges the Myanmar authorities to build on today's action by releasing all remaining political prisoners."
The statement also noted that it was "deeply regrettable" that Ms. Suu Kyi was effectively excluded from participating in the recent elections. "Democracy and national reconciliation require that all citizens of Myanmar are free to participate as they wish in the political life of their country."
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called Ms. Suu Kyi's release a "positive signal" that the Myanmar authorities are willing to move forward with the serious challenge of democratic transition. "Clearly, Aung San Suu Kyi can make a major contribution to this process," Ms. Pillay stated, adding that she remained "extremely disappointed" that the pro-democracy leader was not released before the elections. The High Commissioner urged the authorities to now release the other 2,200 political prisoners as "a clear sign that the new Government intends to respect human rights and forge a new future for the country."
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Friday, November 12, 2010
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the “major step forward” taken with the agreement reached after months of deadlock on the formation of a new Iraqi government. He called on Iraq’s leaders to swiftly conclude the process. “He commends all political parties and their leaders for reaching a compromise that will serve the collective interest of the Iraqi people,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
Mr. Ban called the agreement, which follows eight months of deadlock, a “major step forward in the country’s democratic process.” He congratulated President Jalal Talabani on his re-election and welcomed the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers of the Parliament, known as the Council of Representatives, and the nomination of the Prime Minister-designate, Nuri al-Maliki.
Negotiations on the formation of the government have been going on since the holding of parliamentary elections in March. At least 12 million people cast their votes and more than 6,000 candidates took part in the polls, in which the party headed by Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister, received more votes than the coalition led by Mr. al-Maliki in the 325-member Council of Representatives.
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
Thursday, November 11, 2010
World Bank Scandal: Employees Will Be Able to Support Group that Promotes "Conversion Therapy" to "Cure Homosexuality"
The World Bank has approved an employee giving program that includes World Bank matching funds for an anti-gay group that promotes conversion therapy for homosexuality.
MetroWeekly reported yesterday that the World Bank's Community Connections Campaign includes this year the ability to give funds to a group called PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays).
The American Psychological Association, in a 2009 resolution, determined that there was no evidence to support the idea that sexual orientation can be changed by psychological interventions. The PFOX group, however, promotes the idea that gay and lesbian persons can "change" their sexual orientation.
The World Bank will reportedly match employee contributions made to PFOX, which will allow the anti-gay group to represent that its programs and mission are supported by the World Bank.
The MetroWeekly article notes that including PFOX in the World Bank Employee Giving Campaign calls into serious question the World Bank's commitments to equality and non-discrimination. The World Bank was urged to remove the group from the list and to state that PFOX does not represent the values of the World Bank.
Hat tips to Rex Wockner and MetroWeekly.
The World Trade Organization launched a new discussion forum today devoted to next year’s World Trade Report. The subject of the report is “new era preferential trade agreements.” Click here for more information. And click here to visit the discussion forum.
Hat tip to the WTO Press Office
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The city of Bangkok, Thailand will host the 14th annual International Anti-Corruption Conference this week from November 11-13, 2010. The IACC is the premier forum that brings together public and private stakeholders to discuss ways to combat transnational criminal threats and illicit trade. U.S. President Obama has said “…[transnational crime] can undermine stability and security, fuel violence and corruption, weaken the rule of law, and subvert legitimate economies.” According to the U.S. State Department, at the G20 Leaders' Summit in Seoul, Korea from November 11-12, "President Obama will join the other G20 Leaders in endorsing an Action Plan on Anti-Corruption, which contains a set of comprehensive and concrete steps to enhance cooperation in the fight against corruption and illicit trade."
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The European Union and the United States have agreed to allow public observation of the oral hearing in the dispute “European Communities and Certain Member States — Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft” (WT/DS316/R). The hearing will be held on November 18, 2010 at the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland. Click here for more information about how to attend.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
US State Department Releases Vol. XXXII of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-76, Covering SALT I
For persons interested in the history of weapons treaty negotations, the U.S. State Department has finally released volume XXXII of Foreign Relations of the United States, covering the years 1969-1976, when the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) was negotiated. According to a State Department press release:
"The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks produced a series of comprehensive arms control agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union that for the first time limited the deployment of ballistic missiles and anti-ballistic missile systems. Commonly referred to as “SALT I,” the agreements were signed by President Richard Nixon and the General Secretary of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev at the Moscow Summit in May 1972. This volume documents the negotiations leading up to the agreement, the internal deliberations among U.S. policy makers, and reveals the play of political and national security considerations that factored into U.S. policy decisions.
The volume is organized chronologically covering the period of analytical preparation before SALT began, the various rounds of negotiations with the Soviet Union alternating among the cities of Helsinki, Geneva and Vienna, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger's secret trip to Moscow in April 1972, discussions between President Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev at the Moscow Summit in May 1972, and the Nixon administration's efforts to secure congressional approval of the SALT agreement and ratification of the ABM treaty.
Sources for this volume include documents generated in the White House, the National Security Council, the Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The editor [Erin Mahon] included extracts from memorandums of conversation between Henry Kissinger, and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, telephone transcripts and meeting memoranda prepared by chief SALT negotiator, Gerard Smith, and a significant number of backchannel messages among Smith, Kissinger and Alexander Haig, Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs. Additionally, the editor transcribed specifically for this volume more than twenty excerpts from conversations recorded among the President and his advisors on the secret White House taping system."
Persons interest in purchasing the volume may do so from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO Stock Number 044-000-02614-7; ISBN 978-0-16-078401-9), or by calling toll-free 1-866-512-1800 (D.C. area 202-512-1800). For further information, contact Susan Weetman, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1276.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Voters in Oklahoma approved a ballet measure to amend the Oklahoma Constitution this week, State Question 755, that provides that Oklahoma courts "shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law." The "Save Our State Amendment" raises serious questions under the U.S. Constitution. As most readers of this blog are probably well aware, treaties are part of the supreme law of the land under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution and will trump any inconsistent state laws. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has long applied customary international law as part of the supreme law of the land as well. See, e.g., Paquete Habana. In submitting this legislative referendum to the voters, the Governor of Oklahoma stated in his Executive Proclamation that international law as used in the proposed amendment includes both the law of nations and international agreements or treaties. By prohibiting Oklahoma judges from applying U.S. treaty law, this amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution is likely a direct conflict with the oath those judges must take to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which declares treaties to be part of the supreme law of the land.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Did you compete in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition? Or serve as a judge? Or maybe you are a law student who is on a team now or planning to be next year? Or maybe you are (or were) a member of your school's International Law Society. There is a group on LinkedIn for Fans of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition and the International Law Students Association (which sponsors the Jessup Competition). Click here to learn more about the group. And click here to learn more about ILSA and this year's Jessup problem.
For international law professors planning to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) in San Francisco, CA, mark your calendars and plan to attend a breakfast program sponsored by the Pacific McGeorge School of Law for International Law Faculties and members of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) Teaching International Law Interest Group (TILIG). The theme of the breakfast program is "Internationalizing Your Faculty." There are no formal speakers - a roundtable discussion will be encouraged. The date is Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 7 am. More information will be forthcoming, but you are welcome to contact the undersigned for information or check the ASIL webpage.
The 193 Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity concluded their 10th annual conference over the weekend with the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, which creates a 10-year stragetic plan. The plan identifies 20 headline targets organized within 5 strategic goals designed to protect biodiversity. Among the targets adopted by the Parties is the goal of reducing the extinction rate by 50% in the next ten years and the expansion of protected lands and oceans, as well as restoration of previously degraded areas. The Parties also agreed on new rules and procedures to faciliate greater sharing of scientific information and on increased financial support for the implementation of the Convention. The Nagoya Protocol is expected to enter into force in 2012. The next conference of the Parties will also be held in 2012 in India. More information may be found in this press release.